No election? Is it good or bad?

Following Gordon Brown's confirmation there will be no autumn poll Sian Berry reflects on the up and

So, there’s no election next month after all. I wish I had put money on that outcome a fortnight ago, when literally everyone was telling me it was a dead cert to happen.

This did include several journalists and political forecasters, and some of the shrewdest politicians I know, so I think it probably was at some point ‘on’. But events intervened (not least the genius of whoever organised the collective protest that involved people who couldn’t be bothered with it all telling ICM they were staunch Conservatives) and so it’s all off.

I have very mixed feelings about this episode. I don’t know whether to feel annoyed or relieved, jilted or let off. So, since my creative writing juices are all being used up meeting a book deadline, no well-thought-out analysis from me this week, just the tired old lazy blogger’s option of a couple of lists…

List one: top three reasons why not having an election is a good thing.

1) End of Brown bounce double-think

Brown is less ridiculously popular at last. The past few months have been one of those periods of collective amnesia right out of Orwell. As soon as he became PM, everyone - including normally sensible political editors - seemed to forget he’d been running the country for ten whole years and actually to believe ‘everything had changed’. Thank goodness that’s all over.

2) Tory true colours revealed

David Cameron’s New Lovely Conservatives™ have revealed that they are still a bunch of toads after all. Like a magic spell in a Grimm fairy tale, as soon as the mild panic of an imminent election campaign swept over them, the evil lurking under the spin was revealed. With unseemly haste, they ditched their paper-thin greenwash, hid the still-warm Quality of Life review under the sofa, and announced a bunch (yes, another bunch) of tax cuts for millionaires instead.

3) I don’t have to go canvassing for weeks and weeks in the dark and/or cold and/or wet.

Generally I love canvassing, but I had an autumn by-election last year and it can be awful this time of year. When it’s cold and dark, not only is it hazardous on all those unlit basement stairways, but you lose all the feeling in your hands, toes and lips after half and hour and, to make it worse, the success of each doorstep encounter is measured in how much heat you can allow to escape from the canvasee’s house. A carbon disaster – in my world all elections would be in June.

List two: top three reasons why I’m a bit gutted

1) Re-start of Cameron cult?

Despite the party’s overall nastiness being reconfirmed, Cameron himself has had a bit of a boost. He had been looking increasingly crappy in Brown’s new unspun world of grittinesss, but with the press all annoyed with the PM now for leading them up the garden path (and despite what has to have been one of the dullest and least passionate party leader speeches in history) Dave is flavour of the month again. I despair!

2) We were, actually, just about ready for this.

Given the long notice of the possibility of the ‘snap’ election, we were well on the way to having a great campaign ready to roll. We have more candidates selected than at any comparable point, our policies are in better shape than ever (largely thanks to the work done on our carbon-costed budget earlier this year) and, organisationally, we were all set to campaign like mad in our three target seats. Yeah, we could have had ‘em, bring it on, etc, etc.

3) We won’t after all see the first Green MPs next month.

Last May we topped the poll in local elections in our target seats in Brighton and Norwich. So, in a snap election a few months afterwards, we’d have had a great chance of repeating that achievement and making history with the first Green MPs.

However, waiting is not such a bad thing. It does give our recently selected candidate, Caroline Lucas MEP in Brighton, more time to build up a deeper rapport with voters there. With longer to campaign, and with far better candidates than the other parties, a delay at least lets us make sure we’re best placed to win in our target seats when Brown finally decides he has an iron grip on people’s voting intentions – or when his time runs out.

Sian Berry lives in Kentish Town and was previously a principal speaker and campaigns co-ordinator for the Green Party. She was also their London mayoral candidate in 2008. She works as a writer and is a founder of the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s
Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.